Spotlight: Angie Beavin (KY '18)March 13, 2019
When new students join her fifth-grade class, Angie Beavin (KY ’18) tells them about her own fifth-grade teacher, who went the extra mile to help her adjust to a new school in the middle of the year: “I want them to know I will help them through this change. I want them to feel at home.” She won Kentucky’s Milken Educator Award at Peaks Mill Elementary on February 11, 2019.
Milken Family Foundation: You welcome parents into your classroom, setting up conferences around lesson observations to help them understand what student achievement looks like. How is this different from standard parent-teacher conferences?
Angie Beavin: About four years ago our school started implementing “Parent Academies,” where we invite parents into our classrooms to observe a lesson. Half an hour before the observation, the principal and instructional coaches brief them on what they will see, the lesson plan, and the expectations for parents while they’re in the classroom. Their job is to write down what they notice. They observe teachers modeling their thinking, student discourse, student thinking, students’ interactions, student and teacher interaction, the aura of the classroom, etc.
Once the lesson is over, the students go to enrichment and we sit down again with the parents, who share their observations as our team takes notes. We ask the parents how what they’ve noticed supports student learning. It is so cool to hear parents talk about everything we see in our classrooms every day, and so eye-opening for them. Parents are intrigued and excited that students show so much respect and support each other, teach each other and communicate. They see that we teachers are facilitators, not dictators, and that students and teachers often challenge each other’s thinking. We answer parents’ questions and explain what we do in class to get students to this level of achievement.
Although one-on-one conferences are also important, these Parent Academies give parents so much more insight into what is happening in the classroom. They see how the strategies we use not only help their children succeed in the classroom, but also in the real world.
MFF: How did you land in education?
Angie: My mom had an in-home daycare, and I loved interacting with the kids. During high school, every day that I didn’t have a practice or a game after school, I would come home and help her with the kids. I saw the relationship that bloomed and how much she taught them. That’s when I knew that I wanted to build relationships with kids that needed me. That’s when I knew I wanted to see students’ eyes light up when they understood something that was being taught to them. That’s when I knew I wanted to make a difference in as many kids’ lives as possible. That’s when I knew that I wanted and needed to be a teacher.
MFF: Why elementary school?
Angie: Elementary school had the biggest impact on me as a student. I remember all my teachers’ names from Payneville Elementary. Each of them played a special role in my love for school. I knew I wanted and needed to teach elementary students, hoping that I could make a lasting impression in their lives just as my own teachers did. I’ve taught third and fifth grades and love both. The kids have developed their distinct personalities. They want to please and do what’s right. They want to be successful and are willing to listen, learn and apply themselves.
MFF: Tell us about your first year of teaching.
Angie: I started off as a fifth-grade teacher, which helped me grow a tough skin. I knew some of the students and teachers from subbing the previous year. I worked on my classroom most of that July. Getting the classroom organized and decorated was the fun part! Little did I know what I was getting myself into.
Nothing can really prepare you for being responsible for 25-30 students’ education and livelihood until you actually do it. I’m pretty sure I learned more than my students that year. This past summer I saw a few of those students—they were heading off to college. I hope I played a small role in that.
The most challenging part was figuring out how to discipline fifth-graders. At this age, kids are sometimes less excited about school and learning. They are old enough to know if they are struggling, and those who do often pull back. As a first-year teacher, I didn’t have many tricks up my sleeve to get kids motivated. Let’s just say I tried various techniques for classroom management and sought much-needed advice from my colleagues. My fellow teachers, family and friends were a huge support system during my first year of teaching, and they still are.
MFF: How has the adoption of the PEBC’s “Thinking Strategies” changed your instruction and your students’ learning?
Angie: It’s brought tremendous changes. My students and I are now problem-solvers, communicators and deep thinkers. We respect each other academically, emotionally and socially. I now know the importance of building a community, modeling my thinking, student discourse, conferring, catching misconceptions, allowing students to struggle, and reflection.
Since we started using the Thinking Strategies, Peaks Mill has gone from the lowest-scoring school in the district on K-PREP assessments to near or at the top. Our school has also been at the top when comparing MAP (our universal screener) growth in reading and math throughout the district. The whole climate of the school culture has changed from feeling defeated to having grit and a growth mindset. I am grateful to be part of the “thinking community” we have built here.
MFF: Who are your role models?
Angie: I went to Payneville Elementary in a very small town in Meade County. I had great teachers there, but one stands out: Mrs. Hammitt, my second-grade teacher. I remember her being so kind, soft-spoken yet stern, and fair. I remember her always having a smile on her face, and the classroom feeling so welcoming. In fifth grade we moved to Frankfort because of my dad’s job. The last day before Christmas break the kids lined up in the hallway to give me a hug and say goodbye. I’ll never forget that day.
Fifth grade is a hard year to move schools. Most kids have been in school together since kindergarten or first grade, and friendships are well established. Luckily, when I started at Elkhorn Elementary, I had Mrs. Murta. She made me feel at home, as if I had been there since day one. I was a little timid and it was hard to open up to my new classmates. When I didn’t have anyone to play with at recess, Mrs. Murta would come sit with me. Because of her, I found the confidence to make new friends. Now, every time I get a new student (which is pretty often), I tell them this story and how my teacher helped me adjust. I want them to know I will help them through this change. I want them to feel at home.
One other teacher who stands out as a role model is Alison Teegarden, my colleague and very good friend. When I started teaching she was an interventionist, but soon after she became a fifth-grade classroom teacher. She is what I consider an education revolutionary: She makes decisions based on what’s best for the kids and wants education to change for the better. She always spoke out when it was for the kids’ sake, whether people were going to like it or not. She taught me that it’s okay to be outspoken when it will make a difference in the students’ lives. She challenged me, questioned me and taught me to be reflective. She has moved on, but I still confide in her when I make decisions for the students of Peaks Mill.
MFF: How did you feel at your Milken Educator Award notification?
Angie: My principal did a great job at making the whole school believe that our school was hosting a big announcement. We knew that the commissioner, the governor, and state and local news stations were coming. Going into the gym I was thinking, “What in the world will they announce about education today? Is this something I am going to agree with? Why haven't I heard about any new initiatives?” I even searched online for information about new state initiatives.
When I walked in, there were many people I didn’t recognize. Our principal started off the “ceremony.” Then our superintendent introduced Lowell Milken. Lowell said he had flown in from California and was looking for an adult in the crowd, a leader, a teacher. That’s when I started to realize that this was much bigger than my principal had let on (she has a great poker face). As Lowell described the Award and the cash prize, I thought, “Wow … this could truly go to any teacher in the building.”
Then Lowell called my name. My reaction: “WHAT!!!!????” You can actually see this in my reaction video. I was completely surprised and in shock. I honestly don’t remember walking down the bleachers, but I saw it on the video, so I know I did. I’m glad I made it down without falling! As I got to the gym floor there were so many cameras were in my face. I just couldn't believe what was happening. My principal gave me a hug, Lowell gave me hug, then we took pictures with the $25,000 check.
That was a monumental moment I’ll never forget. Lowell let me sit down for a little bit to gather my thoughts for a short speech I was supposed to give (obviously I wasn’t prepared). I sat there shaking from excitement. I still wasn’t exactly sure what I had won, but I knew it had to do with leadership and excellence. Then I knew what I wanted to say. The reason I am the teacher and leader I’ve become is because of my colleagues from the past 11 years, and everyone who has coached me along the way. I delivered my speech, short and sweet. I can’t believe I didn’t cry; I think it was because I was truly in shock. Then, now, and forever I am grateful to be recognized for my hard work and diligence in the classroom.
MFF: How did students respond to your Milken Award?
Angie: They went wild. I didn’t process their reaction at the time, but in the pictures some of their faces show pure excitement. Once I made it back to the classroom they kept telling me that I needed to get a new phone, AirPods, a $1,000 Starbucks gift card. My niece, who is in my classroom this year, was wondering if I was going to take our family on a summer vacation. They were stuck on the money, which was totally understandable.
After I had time to talk with veteran Milken Educators and learn more about the Award, I came back and explained to my class what it really meant. I asked them to reflect on their initial reaction and what they thought I should do with the money now that they knew more about the Award. Some students said they had cried when I won and were thrilled that they were in my class when it happened. A few said they were now interested in being a teacher.
I truly hope they will remember my Milken Award moment forever, and how important teachers are. This class holds a special place in my heart. I know I’ll never forget the impact of this Award, along with the impact this class has made on me as a teacher.
MFF: Do you have plans for your $25,000 Award?
Angie: I already have my master’s and National Board Certification, but I will use this to renew my National Boards when that time comes. I will pay off my credit card. I will definitely put quite a bit in savings.
But the great thing about this money is that I can truly spoil myself and others with it—and believe me, I will! I will buy myself a Starbucks gift card that will last me a long time. I will go on a shopping spree (I love to shop) ... out with the old and in with the new! I will throw my class a year-end party. I will certainly go on a few trips this summer.
I also want to get with our Family Resource Coordinator to see how I can help out. And I will buy things that kids in my class end up needing each year: binders, notebooks, earbuds, lip balm, water bottles, etc. Some of this money deserves to go back to Peaks Mill Elementary to support our students.
MFF: How do you define “success” for yourself, and for your students?
Angie: My parents showed me that hard work, perseverance and dedication assist in successful outcomes. They showed me that being kind, empathetic, a good listener and open-minded leads to success. They explained that sometimes you come out on top, and sometimes you don’t. That we make great decisions and mistakes. They encouraged high expectations but told me not to get down if I didn't meet or exceed every goal: “Don’t regret, and don’t forget.” They emphasized that what really matters is learning from experience and becoming a better, stronger, smarter, kinder human being.
This is exactly what I explain to my students about success. Because I am one of their role models—sometimes their only positive one—it’s important that I show them the characteristics of a successful person every day and encourage them to be the best that they can be.
Our school motto is “Nothing Less Than Success.” Peaks Mill Patriots understand that I hold high expectations, and students know what those expectations are. I explain and model what success looks like for every lesson, for every assessment, for friendships, and for citizens of Frankfort. I hope that by explaining and modeling success in this way, I am leaving a lasting impression.
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